Nursing Wallpaper (Alarm Fatigue)

The alarms on your monitors.

The call bell lights flashing.

The call bell alarm being triggered.

The unit phone ringing.

All of them can be, and are often subliminally categorized as Wallpaper.

It was a term coined by a fellow nurse who was the Safety Officer for a certain hospital I used to work for. During the general hospital orientation, he gave the wonderful speeches on sentinel events and reporting procedures for those events, if they were to ever happen.

He went on to explain that we as nurses will get used to the alarm ‘noises’ we are so often subjected to, that they no longer become an alarm or an alert. We (by no fault of our own) no longer consider them to be ‘something out of the norm’, nor do we change our direction or way of thinking when these cues are readily apparent to everyone else surrounding you.

We become so oblivious to the ‘alarm’ that some may think we are ignoring the said alarm.

Take for instance the patient call bell. A noise every nurse hears during those silent sleeping hours lying in bed after a long shift at work. A noise that given the opportunity or chance, every nurse could mimic down to the specific chord and/or note.

Unfortunately, during our work day it becomes wallpaper. It turns into an accepted sound that we subconsciously consider to be the ‘norm’. We don’t purposely ignore the alarm, but when you hear the alarm repeatedly all day, it stops becoming an alarm and start becoming that background noise, ergo wallpaper.

The irony of it all, is these alarms are supposed to alert personnel that something has veered from the ‘norm’.

So now, the patient has pushed the call bell and you’re not acknowledging there need. The patient and the patient’s family knows what the use of the call bell is for, and they also know YOU as the nurse know what it is for. Therefore, since you are not answering the call bell alarm, you MUST be ignoring the needs of the patient.

We are so often quick to judge.

Sometimes the craziness of the work environment causes adapting and changes in our psyche that elude our normal way of thinking and our normal way of acting.

The next time a nurse isn’t answering your call bell please be a patient patient and think about what workplace wallpaper you have.

Have you ever accidentally answered your home phone with the phone greeting you use at the office? And not even realize you’ve done it?”Hi, thank you for calling (so-and-so). My name is (so-and-so). How can I help you?”

It really is amazing what you get used to-

Carpe Diem

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